Oct. 26, 1996
No. 3 Seminoles Defeat No. 14 Virginia, 31-24
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Thad Busby threw a pair of touchdown passes and Warrick Dunn and Rock Preston had long TD runs as third-ranked Florida State took control of the Atlantic Coast Conference with a 31-24 victory over number 14 Virginia.
Busby threw for a career-high 316 yards and Dunn rushed for 131 yards on 26 carries for the Seminoles (6-0, 6-0 ACC), who had to rally from a rare home halftime deficit to avenge their only ACC loss since joining the conference in 1991.
"Their offense was better than it looked on film," said Virginia coach George Welsh. "They're not as explosive as previous teams but they are the best we've seen this year. You never know when Dunn will make a long run or they'll make a great catch. They have good wide receivers and Busby's timing was much better."
Tiki Barber rushed for 150 yards and a touchdown for Virginia (5-2, 3-2), which upset Florida State at home last year but had no such luck this year. The Cavaliers held a surprising 17-14 halftime lead but fell to 1-4 all-time against the Seminoles.
"We got behind in the first half by shooting ourselves in the foot," Busby said. "This team showed a lot of heart by not giving up and coming back and winning. We are continuing to get better."
Busby's 21-yard touchdown pass to E.G. Green capped the first possession of the second half and gave FSU the lead for good at 21-17 with 10:37 left in the third quarter.
FSU's Samari Rolle intercepted Tim Sherman and the Seminoles were headed for another score when fullback Pooh Bear Williams fumbled into the end zone, where the Cavaliers recovered.
Scott Bentley kicked a 25-yard field goal 3:25 into the fourth quarter to extend the lead to 10 points. After a defensive stop, Preston burst up the middle, bounced off a couple of tacklers and sped toward the left sideline for a 42-yard touchdown run and a 31-17 lead with 5:54 to go.
Sherman, who was just 9-of-28 for 159 yards, cut the deficit to seven points with 2:43 to go on a 23-yard TD strike over the middle to Germaine Cromwell, who had six catches for 126 yards.
Florida State recovered Virginia's onside kick but was unable to make a first down. However, James Colzie intercepted Sherman's fourth-down pass and slid to the turf with just over a minute to go.
"Our defense just played super again," FSU coach Bobby Bowden said. "What may determine how far we go is whether we can eliminate the errors. You can't test your team's character until your team is behind and I was pleased with the way we responded."
Green caught six passes for 78 yards. Andre Cooper caught seven passes for 102 yards and Wayne Messam added five for 90 for FSU, which is 37-1 all-time in the ACC.
"We worked hard this week on the timing with the wide receivers and it showed today," Busby said. "It was a total offensive effort against a very good Virginia defense."
Defensive end Peter Boulware had three sacks to boost his season total to 12 1/2, breaking the school record set by Ron Simmons in 1977.
"We're glad that we got the win, but we're still disappointed in giving up 24 points," Boulware said. "We can't give up 24 points and expect to win every game. We need to shore up on our mental mistakes. We did some foolish things out there."
"The pass protection wasn't so good," Welsh said. "They've got the best four-man pass rush. We had them doubled a lot. We didn't pass well."
Linebacker Dillon Taylor had an interception for Virginia, which extended its NCAA record for consecutive games with a pickoff to 36.
Dunn raced 65 yards for a touchdown with 2:24 left in the first quarter, but Barber responded 15 seconds later with a 48-yard TD scamper that tied the game.
Messam caught a 48-yard scoring strike from Busby on the second play of the second quarter, but Aaron Brooks had a one-yard TD run just 2:12 later, tying it again. Rafael Garcia kicked a 38-yard field goal with 24 seconds left in the half to give the Cavaliers the lead.
Seminoles 31, Virginia 24
1 2 3 4 F - - - - -- Virginia (14) 7 10 0 7 24 Florida St (3) 7 7 7 10 31 FINAL Florida St-Dunn 65 run (Bentley kick) Virginia-T Barber 48 run (Garcia kick) Florida St-Messam 48 pass from Busby (Bentley kick) Virginia-Brooks 1 run (Garcia kick) Virginia-FG Garcia 38 Florida St-Eg Green 21 pass from Busby (Bentley kick) Florida St-FG Bentley 25 Florida St-Preston 42 run (Bentley kick) Virginia-Crowell 23 pass from Sherman (Garcia kick) Virginia Florida St First downs 13 22 Rushed-yards 35-154 52-217 Passing yards 172 316 Sacked-yards lost 3-31 4-20 Return yards 11 16 Passes 10-32-2 25-36-1 Punts 8-45.4 7-37.4 Fumbles-lost 3-0 2-2 Penalties-yards 2-27 6-82 Time of possession 24:24 35:36 Individual Statistics RUSHING: Virginia-T Barber 21-150, Sherman 6-7, T Jones 1-4, Medley 2-3, Southern 2-2, Brooks 3-minus 12. Florida St-Dunn 26-131, Preston 4-43, Abdullah 6-30, P Williams 2-25, Busby 14-minus 12. PASSING: Virginia-Sherman 9-28-2-159, Brooks 1-4-0-13. Florida St-Busby 25-36-1-316. RECEIVING: Virginia-Crowell 6-126, Dotson 3-19, Derey 1-27. Florida St-Cooper 7-102, Eg Green 6-78, Messam 5-90, Pearsall 2-12, Dunn 2-12, Dugans 1-13, P Williams 1-7, Abdullah 1-2. Att: 80,237